Friday, May 24, 2019

Will Joshua Be Next For Wilder?

The main story that has surrounded Boxing’s Heavyweight division has been the dominance of the division’s two world champions. Two world champions that are both known “Knockout Artists “ and two fighters that happen to be undefeated. As each fighter has continued to hold onto their respective portions of the World Heavyweight championship, anticipation has naturally been building for what is viewed as an eventual showdown to determine an Undisputed World Heavyweight champion.

While the division’s two world champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua are no closer at least at the moment to signing an eventual clash, both fighters continue to focus their attention on other opposition. Following a close split decision draw against undefeated former Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury last December, Deontay Wilder made the ninth defense of his World Boxing Council (WBC) World Heavyweight championship against mandatory WBC challenger Dominic Breazeale on May 18th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

An encounter between two former United States Olympians who do not like each other. The fight however, was over before it could really begin. A flush overhead right  to the jaw sent Breazeale down and out at just 2:17 of the first round. Frankly, there is not much one can write about a one punch knockout, but Wilder’s fortieth knockout in forty-one professional fights was as good an example as any of not just the punching power Wilder possesses, but of how sometimes all a fighter needs is one punch to end a fight.

It was a knockout however, that followed a week of controversial comments made by the world champion regarding among other things how he in his words wanted a body on his record. Referring to the potential of an opponent dying at his hands. I did not comment on this in previewing this fight because I was trying to determine whether those comments by Wilder directed towards Breazeale was in a way a tactic to promote the fight and to draw interest in the bout or whether it was an indication of the bad blood between the two fighters and more specifically how I would address it.

While I cannot answer that question, I can offer my thoughts on the comments. It goes without saying that Boxing like all combat sports have a risk factor attached to it. Although all combat sports have a skilled art form attached to it as well and such skills can be beautiful and enjoyable to watch, no fighter should ever make references to wanting to potentially kill their opponent regardless of the reasoning.

Boxing history has several tragedies where a fighter has died as a result of injuries sustained during a fight written in its book. While all of those tragedies can be described as accidents where more often than not, the end result came as a result of a fight being allowed to go on longer than it should have, if one looks at the fighters who have had to deal with such tragedies of having to deal with the death of an opponent as a result of a fight they competed in, each fighter carries or carried scars and grief over what took place for the rest of their lives.

Although I don’t want to compile a list of tragedies for the reader or for Wilder himself because there will always be one too many, I will offer this memory. I have been writing about and covering Boxing as well as other combat sports for most of my life. In over two decades covering Boxing, I have unfortunately covered a death that came as a result of injuries suffered in a fight. I am referring to the Septemer 2005 encounter between Leavander Johnson and Jesus Chavez.

A fight that Chavez gradually dominated and one that saw Johnson sustain significant punishment throughout. The fight was stopped in the eleventh round, but as someone who covered that fight I have always felt that it should have been stopped earlier. As some Boxing fans may remember, Johnson collapsed in his dressing room shortly after the fight and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he unfortunate died days later from injuries sustained in that fight.

Although that tragedy remains the only one that I have had to cover in regard to Boxing since I began writing about the sport in the mid-1990’s, it is still one tragedy too many. Chavez like fighters before him who had suffered similar circumstances continued on with his career, but was never the same after that fight.

Even though some may view Deontay Wilder’s comments prior to his knockout of Dominic Breazeale as simply a fighter looking to generate publicity and draw interest, I feel he went too far. Deontay Wilder has the potential to go down in history as one of the all-time great Heavyweights and it would be a shame in this observer’s view if he were to be remembered more for comments like that than for his accomplishments inside the ring. Thankfully beyond a fighter suffering a knockout loss, no such tragedy was inflicted upon the sport when Deontay Wilder retained his portion of the World Heavyweight championship over Dominic Breazeale.

As always seems to be the case following a successful title defense, the question is what’s next? Obviously, yours truly would like to see a fight between Wilder and Anthony Joshua to determine an Undisputed World Heavyweight champion. Whether or not that fight will happen in the near future depends on a couple of key elements.

First and foremost, Joshua is scheduled to defend his IBF/WBA/IBO/WBO Heavyweight world championship on June 1st against top contender and former world title challenger Andy Ruiz. If Joshua retains his crown against Ruiz, the subject of potential mandatory title defense obligations comes into play as well as another key element that unfortunately plays just as much a role in determining when major fights like an undisputed world championship bout takes place. Whether or not competing network platforms and rival promoters will allow it to happen.

Through the years in both online and print medium readers have become accustomed to me not only discussing the “Business of Boxing” and what goes into it, but have also seen me be quite critical when necessary with regard to elements of the “Business of Boxing” standing in the way of things that would be to the long-term benefit of “The Sport of Boxing.”

Although I don’t want to spend too much time discussing how one of the key topics leading up to Deontay Wilder’s fight against Dominic Breazeale was not necessarily about the fight itself, but about how Wilder turned down a lucrative contract offer from digital sports streaming network DAZN, which would have put him on the same platform as Anthony Joshua, but it is necessary. Wilder instead chose to remain with Showtime and the Premier Boxing Champions banner.

While this certainly does not mean that Wilder will not be seen on DAZN at some point in the future, it does present an obstacle in a potential fight between the two unbeaten Heavyweight world champions from being made due to competing platforms and rival promoters. It is no secret and should be none to longtime readers that I have been and will continue to be very vocal in my support of the sport going in a direction of direct to consumer subscription-based digital streaming as compared to the pay-per-view model.

In this instance, we have one platform DAZN that is focused on the future and has frankly put out a more consistent flow of what one would consider “Pay-Per-View Quality” content as compared to many recent pay-per-view attractions for a more economically reasonable price. On the other hand, there is Showtime, which now stands alone as the only premium cable network in the United States still involved regularly in the sport following HBO’s decision to exit Boxing at the end of 2018. While Showtime also has established consistency in putting out quality cards for its viewers, it still relies on the pay-per-view model for its biggest fights. This creates an obvious roadblock in a potential fight being made as one platform has proven it does not need pay-per-view to be successful, but the other still sees it as profitable.

Without going into all the elements that could factor into such negotiations, this is a scenario that has led to some significant fights in Boxing history being delayed and ultimately leaving the Boxing fan feeling disappointed when a major fight finally does occur. The most recent example of this was the May 2015 encounter between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. A fight that was a co-production pay-per-view main event between Showtime and HBO, but one where consumers were asked to pay $100 to see the broadcast.

A consistent criticism that Yours truly here’s on occasion with regard to the sport is how the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tends to put on fights that fans want to see in a more timely manner than happens in Boxing. Although I do not want to get on a debate regarding that subject as MMA like Boxing also has its flaws, it is clear that when a fan is asked to spend that kind of money on a card where the main event under delivers, it turns people off. This is one reason among many why I am supportive of a digital subscription-based model as compared to pay-per-view for the simple reason that a consumer receives more content in one month than they do paying significantly more for one card on a per card basis.

We will have to see what the future holds for Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, but this observer hopes that for once what is good for the sport and more specifically the fighters takes priority over the interests of others who can, but hopefully won’t stand in the way of a major fight like this from happening. If a potential fight between Wilder and Joshua does take place and the Boxing fan does not have to pay an inflated fee to see it, even better.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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